Sophie’s Choice (1982)

sophies choice poster 1982 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great performance by Streep

Story probably isn't as shocking as when it was originally released

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Sophie’s Choice

Studio:  Incorporated Television Company (ITC)/Keith Barish Productions

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 8, 1982

MPAA Rating:  R

sophies choice coney island peter macnicol kevin kline meryl streep

This will be a fun movie about friends having fun in New York City!

Stingo (Peter MacNicol) is an aspiring writer who has moved to New York City in 1947.  In his Brooklyn boarding house, he meets Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline) and concentration camp survivor Zofia “Sophie” Zawistowski (Meryl Streep).  Stingo learns how Nathan saved Sophie after she arrived in New York after the war, but also sees that Nathan suffers from rages and obsessions that come and go.  Sophie on the other hand is soft spoken and carries a burden of the war…as Stingo gets to know Sophie and Nathan he learns the truth behind Sophie’s survival and learns surviving the war doesn’t mean the battle is won.

Directed by Alan J. Pakula (who wrote the screenplay), Sophie’s Choice is a drama film.  The movie is an adaptation of William Styron’s 1979 novel Sophie’s Choice and was well received upon its release.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Actress (Meryl Streep) with nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score.

sophies choice meryl streep sophie polish concentration camp

…and the fun is done

Sophie’s Choice is a blind spot in movie viewing.  It is a movie that you feel you know, and it also doesn’t help that the “choice” is rather widely known.  Entering Sophie’s Choice with the expectations, knowledge of the story, and a passing of time might have tainted my expectations.  Due to aspects of the scripts, a *****spoiler alert***** is in effect for the review.

While there were films about the horrors of concentration camps, it wasn’t as prevalent as today.  The movie doesn’t have the horrors of Schindler’s List, but it is still horrific.  It is also showing how war doesn’t just end.  Sophie is haunted by the war and punishes herself by keeping in a toxic relationship because she doesn’t feel she deserves better.  The relationship between Sophie and Nathan also has the tumultuous nature that sometimes are romanticized, but it doesn’t feel romantic here.

The “choice” is oddly underplayed.  I always assumed it was an arduous choice with Sophie pining on whether to let her son die or her daughter die…stewing in her head.  Instead, it is a split-second choice which is also horrific.  She isn’t able to explain her choice to her children (though you can never explain), but it is sudden and forces her to relive the screaming of her child for the rest of her life.

sophies choice daughter taken meryl streep

She made her choice…now she must live with it

The cast is odd, but more by today’s standards than when the film was released.  Meryl Streep is perfect (she usually is), but this was her when she still young and starting out her reign as the queen of the Oscars.  It was Kevin Kline’s first movie and since he did a lot of comedy afterwards, it is odd to see him in a dead serious drama film.  Likewise, Peter MacNicol also did a lot of comedy following Sophie’s Choice, and I also have a hard time with his Southern fried character (mocked also by Kline’s character.

Sophie’s Choice is a good movie, but it doesn’t hit as hard as I expected it to.  The movie has been hurt by age and parodies of the situation.  It has also been a bit hurt by so many war movies and stories that have had the benefit of coming on the shoulders of Sophie’s Choice…it is still a movie that should be seen.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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